‘All things are possible for him who believes…’ (what?!)

11 September 2013

Last Sunday we looked at the passage where Jesus returns from on top of the mountain, after his transfiguration, to find a chaotic scene: his disciples seem to have become ineffective in their ministry, and are caught up in arguments with the Pharisees. (Those familiar with the Old Testament will notice a parallel to Moses returning from atop Mount Sinai, having received the ten commandments, to find a scene of chaos and idolatry – the ‘golden calf’ episode). Jesus seems to diagnose a prevailing lack of faith in this scene, hence his words: ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?’

In the midst of all this, he meets a suffering father who does have faith in Jesus. His faith is weak and struggling, but it is there. Yet again in the gospel of Mark we’re reminded that what counts is not the size of your faith (how confident you are), but whether your faith is in Jesus. We’re also reminded that it’s often the most unlikely people who show real faith in Jesus.

It’s to this man that Jesus gives his striking reminder: ‘all things are possible for him who believes’. What are we to make of this? Is this a formula for blessing? If I have ‘enough’ faith, will I get whatever I want? In a word, no; faith and prayer are never presented in this formulaic, rub-the-genie-the-right-way manner in the Bible.

Rather, Jesus is saying something bigger and more profound. Those who entrust themselves to God, through trusting in his Son Jesus, enter the realm in which all things are possible. Faith is, if you like, the ‘access code’ by which God will work through you in ways you would never imagine. This does not mean that God will turn things out the way we want or predict – notice that in this passage the boy seems first to have died, rather than been healed by Jesus. As an analogy, a kitesurfer who launches his kite into the powerful wind commits himself into a situation where he is no longer in control (although he is an active player); rather, the power of the wind will now work through him and amazing things will be possible.

In the same way, Christian faith in the Lord Jesus is a personal commitment to ‘hand over the keys’ of our lives to King Jesus. We are explicitly acknowledging that we are not in control, but God is; Jesus is in the driver’s seat. And if God is in control and has promised to work through me, then ‘all things are possible’. Things far better and more surprising, and – for a time – more painful, but ultimately more joyful and glorious than anyone could ever have imagined. For proof of this, remember the death of Jesus; an event far worse than any of his followers would ever have dreamed; followed by the resurrection days later – an event far more glorious and joyful than anyone would have ever hoped (sin and death and sickness all defeated for good!). All things are possible for him who believes.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.